Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Uncompromised Potential

I’ve had an identity crisis over the past several months. I felt as if I was losing a part of myself that I deeply love. Since I was in middle school, I’ve identified myself as a runner. But since this past summer, I’ve struggled with running for some reason. Sometimes I would go out for a casual run and have trouble going 3 miles. I couldn’t figure out. But I felt like I was no longer a runner. And it was depressing.
I missed Mary the Marathoner. I moped and whined and pitied the lesser person I was without her. I saw other runners trotting along and envied them. I worried that I would never again find that piece of myself.
And then on Thanksgiving morning I met up with some friends for a self-organized Turkey Trot. They were planning to go for a somewhat long run, and I told them that I would probably just do the first half of it with them (thinking I probably couldn’t last longer than about 4 miles). It was a chilly morning, but sunny and beautiful for a pre-feast run. We all chatted away as we ran along the Willamette River. Before I knew it, we had run 4 miles. And I was feeling good. We decided to go all the way downtown, across the Hawthorne Bridge and back to our starting point in Sellwood. After nearly an hour and a half, we had run 9 miles! I couldn’t believe I actually ran 9 miles! It had been so long since I had done that. I hardly thought I was capable of doing that anymore.
It felt amazing. And just like that, my identity as a runner was restored. Since then, I have gone for several 5- and 7-mile runs, and felt great! Maybe all I needed was one good run to prove to myself that I am, in fact, a runner. I just needed a little confidence boost.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of who you really are, and what you are truly capable of.  Potential: it’s a loaded word; a combination of uncertainty and possibility (even probability!). Seeing a person not reach their full potential is quite tragic. It’s all-too-common in this day in age, and it’s heart-breaking. The homeless person on the street who is in fact an amazing chef; the Syrian refugee who was once an oral surgeon; the inner-city kid who dropped out of high school before graduation; the adult who is too scared to step out of their comfort zone.
Undiscovered abilities. Suppressed talents. Lost potential.
We’re each unique in our own wonderful ways – it’s the beauty of the human race! There are a million differentiators that make you who you are. You have unique skills, hobbies and talents that help create your identity. You wouldn’t be the same without one or another. Maybe you’re an amazing mom, or an inspiring motivational speaker, or you have an exceptional eye for design, or you know how to give just the right advice or counseling to those who need that support. Don’t hold out. Embrace it and lean into that beautiful part of yourself. Don’t let one of those wonderful pieces of yourself slip away or go unnoticed. Maybe you used to be something – an avid runner, an elegant dancer, a compelling writer, and romantic husband, a loving daughter, a brave adventurer – but you feel as if that piece of you is gone or slipping away. Don’t let it go! Hold onto it or rediscover it and take back that wonderful piece of your identity that makes you feel more like you. Or maybe you’ve witnessed or are witnessing someone fall away from their true self. Encourage them! Maybe all they need is a confidence boost.
Nobody becomes a runner without working at it. And nobody runs a marathon without a certain amount of confidence in themselves and the runner they know they can be… and a whole lot of support and encouragement from those cheering them on from the sidelines.
Steadfast Prayer
This prayer was part of my church service for youth seniors when I was graduating from high school. I have it hanging on a wall in my room because I love it so much…
May you be alive to the wonder with which God fills your every day.
May your friends now and henceforth accept you as you are while challenging you to become more.
May you never be without a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, someone with whom to pray.
May you never be comfortable being anyone less than the fullness of who God created you to be.
May you walk the line between joy and grief that this world of blessings and hardships demands.
May your laughter and your tears be free.
May you live up to the uncompromised potential that will lead you to work mighty works, to speak needed truths, and to grow more towards God’s hopes.
May your dreams walk with you wherever you go.
May the sound of God walking with you fill your being.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Spirit

Once a year for one month, it's in the air.  You can't hold it or touch it.  You can't quite put your finger on it.  But it's definitely there.  Christmas Spirit.  Isn't it wonderful?  Don't you just love Christmas spirit?  I think it is the reason why I look forward to this time of year so much.  People are simply friendlier.  They are kinder.  They smile more.  They are quicker to lend a hand or help another person out.

But why is that?  What is it about the holidays that has the ability to transform people?  Are we trying to impress someone?  Or prove something?  Is it guilt?  Do we feel bad for being a bit self-centered the other 11 months of the year?  Maybe the idea of having to please a big jolly guy with a white beard in the North Pole in order to receive gifts has stuck with us since childhood.

Yesterday morning I was serving breakfast at the Blanchet House like I do every Tuesday morning.  A group of women was there to help serve as well.  We had more volunteers than usual, almost more than we needed.  I thought about leaving so that there weren't "too many cooks in the kitchen", but decided to stay.  Blanchet is a much needed weekly experience for me.  Almost like a ritual.  Almost like my church.  I chatted with the group of women and asked if it was their first time at Blanchet.  It was.  I asked them what brought them here.  They said they are looking for different ways to serve during the month of December.  It must be their way of spreading Christmas Spirit.  They helped serve nearly 300 meals to the less fortunate in our community that morning.  And they did it with a smile on their face.  Their service was much appreciated and I'm sure they spread Christmas Spirit to many people who came in for a hot meal.

Afterwards, I was eating breakfast with one of the Blanchet residents, Vic, and he commented on how many people want to help serve around Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He said that one guy asked if he and his family could help out by serving meals on Thanksgiving or Christmas day.  And this was Vic's response: "If you really want to help out, pick a Tuesday in March to come serve.  That's when we really need people."

His response caught me off guard a little bit.  But how honest and true it is!  As wonderful as it is to consciously make an effort to help others out during the holiday season, there are endless needs surrounding us throughout the year.  What if we really could spread the Christmas Spirit year around?!  What if the love, joy and cheerfulness of the holidays continued 365 days a year?
So I encourage you to find ways to help others out during this holiday season.  Volunteer at a local soup kitchen; connect with a child or family that could use a little support; donate your time or money to an organization that is making a difference.  But more so, I encourage you to continue doing that into the new year, and all the way through next Christmas!  Don't leave the Christmas Spirit behind once December is over.  Approach every day with the same generosity and kindness we all have during the joyful holiday season.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Napa/Sonoma Weekend Getaway

This past weekend I had the perfect getaway that I’ve been needing for quite some time. I’ve been working a lot over the last several months and I finally feel like I can take some time off to unwind. It seems like most of the time I travel it is to see family or do something really active. I really wanted to take a trip that was completely relaxing and enjoyable. So what better place to go than Napa for a little wine country getaway!
I talked my friend Meredith into joining me on this trip (it didn’t take much convincing). Meredith lives in San Francisco, so I flew into OAK on Thursday evening, she picked me up and we drove north to Sonoma County. I have a friend who owns a condo in Sonoma and he kindly offered to let us stay there for the weekend. It was so wonderful to have a beautiful home right in the valley in which to stay.

Let me outline what makes a Napa weekend perfectly relaxing:
- Don’t set an alarm. Wake up when you wake up. Make coffee and enjoy a lazy morning around the house.
- Visit at least 4 wineries during your weekend stay. There are more than 450 wineries in the Napa/Sonoma area, so just know that you’re going to have to make multiple trips to this area during your lifetime. This might have become my new top location for a second home!
- End your day of wine tasting with pizza from my local business, Mary’s Pizza.
- Watch plenty of Aubrey Hepburn movies including Roman Holiday and My Fair Lady.
- Go for a walk or a run around the neighborhood, but be careful not to get too lost in the unfamiliar neighborhoods.
- Enjoy strolling around the Sonoma Square, and maybe even stop to swing on the swing set.
- Listen to mixed CDs from the last 1990s early 2000s. Best enjoyed with the car windows rolled down.
- Bring your sunglasses and enjoy the 70 degree weather.
- Stop by Kirby Cove on your way home and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.
- Make sure to travel with a friend with whom you can be ridiculously silly and also have great conversations.
- Have someone amazing pick you up from the airport when you get home so that you’re not too sad that your weekend getaway is over.

unbelievably beautiful
our first stop: Cakebread Cellars

our fun wine tasting group

we were able to visit a friend who works in the Neyers Vineyards tasting room
champagne at Gloria Ferrer

enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Girl and the Fig

wine tasting and lawn games at Larson Winery

incredible view above San Fran
a great welcome home sign from a certain someone who greeted me at the airport
Winemaker for a Day
My friend and coworker Mike has taken up winemaking as a hobby, and a couple of weeks ago I was able to help him bottle his wine.  ORE Winery is operating out of SE Wine Collective here in Portland.  The wine has been fermenting in barrels for the past 8 months and is maturing into a fabulous Pinot Noir. 
filling up the bottles

Mike the winemaker, and helpers Mary, Robby and Matt

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Texas Birthday/Football Weekend

Last weekend I traveled to Texas for a surprise visit for my Mom's 60th birthday.  My dad and I were scheming about this for a little over a month, and we actually pulled it off without leaking the surprise to my mom.  Robby came with me to Texas, too, and we flew into Waco just in time for the Baylor vs. OU game.  My parents always go up to the Bear Club before the game so we surprised my mom by showing up there.  She was shocked!  Then we all headed out to the game to cheer on the Baylor Bears with 50,000 other fans.  I've never seen a Baylor game like this - it was amazing!  The Bears remained undefeated by winning 41-12.  Sic em!

It was pretty great to be home and in Floyd Casey Stadium

And great to see lots of Baylor friends
Carter, the Baylor sports guru, at his craziest

Robby's first Baylor game - he knew all of the chants and cheers by the end
Friday morning we met up with my Granddad and Barbara for breakfast at CafĂ© Cappuccino.  I hadn't seen them since last Christmas so it was great to spend some time together.  Then we headed over to Baylor campus to give Robby the quick tour.  I'm amazed at how much the campus has changed each time I go back!  Robby and I met up with Liesl and her husband and new baby and Hannah for lunch at Vitek's then stopped by Congress Clothing to get new tshirts to show our Baylor pride back in Oregon.  We had to get coffee at Common Grounds of course and my sweet friend Kimberly who recently bought CG sat down and chatted with us for a bit.

I loved getting to meet Liesl's 12 week old baby Scarlett, even if she did spit up on me a cry during this picture :) I can't believe my friends are moms!

Friday night we had a little birthday dinner for Mom at Sarah's house.  The Belfs came down from Dallas and Steve and Thanne were in town from Portland so they joined as well.  I put together a birthday project with my mom by having family and friends send in notes and pictures for us to tie onto balloons for her.  It turned out pretty great and she loved the sweet notes from everyone.

Could Henry be any cuter?!  Helping me set up the balloons.

lots of birthday notes!
Happy Birthday, Jammy!
Saturday was our day to really celebrate Mom.  We sent the boys off to the golf course, Dad took care of all four kids (way to go, Dad!) and Emily and Sarah and I took Mom to get manicures and pedicures then to shop for a new birthday outfit at Roots.  That night we all went to dinner at El Conquistador for Mom's birthday dinner.  Glad I got some good Tex Mex in while I was in Texas!  

the girls getting pampered

fun celebration
After a relaxing Sunday morning, Robby and I said goodbye to the family and headed down to Austin with Ross and Hannah to see a few more friends before flying out.  We met up with Whitney and Bill and Merrill and Chase and kids for lunch.  It was so great to be with this wonderful group of friends that I've known for so long.  My cousin Madison just moved from Portland to Austin a couple of weeks ago, so we stopped by his new place.  I sure do miss that guy, but it was great to see him and our friend Ben settled into their new city.  Then we all met up again for queso and margs at Hula Hut before Robby and I went to the airport to head back to Portland.
our Austin boys
the Hula Hut crew
It was a whirlwind of a weekend in Texas (it always seems to be that way), but it was a great weekend full of time with friends and family.  I'm so glad we were able to fly down to surprise my mom and celebrate her birthday!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Great Adventure 2013

This past weekend was the 2013 Great Adventure Dinner & Auction for Medical Teams International.  I can't believe this was my 5th auction to be a part of.  But different than other years, this was my first auction to lead as the as the event manager.  And boy did I learn a lot in this past year.  I've never been pushed to grow as much as I was during this year of planning.  It was hard, but it was good.
In years past, I've always been involved with the majority of the event planning, but this year I was a part of every little aspect of the event (and those of you who have ever planned an event know that there are a million little details that go into making that one night happen).  So what details took up nine months of my working year?  Procuring auction packages (live, silent, wine, international), lining up the auctioneer/emcee/event participants, working with a graphic designer for all event materials, working with an outsourced events company to line up vendors, setting up and managing two databases, coordinating volunteers with our volunteer manager, menu tasting with the caterer (the best part of the job), working with our development team to create strategies around this fundraising event, running the raffle of a Lexus car (nearly an event within itself), and a million other details that make a 5-hour event a success.
It was a lot of work, but it all came together in the end and raised over $1.2 million for people all around the world.  Worth it.
But I have to say that I'm pretty glad to have this year's auction behind me.  And will definitely need a vacation before I even think about starting to plan for the next one.
the view of the auction (our normal warehouse and distribution center) from above
 My sweet mom came to help out in the office on the days leading up to the auction. Thanks, Mom!
And Robby was a rock star putting up with my stressful work schedule leading up to the auction, and then working the crowd (while also being my go-to "volunteer") on auction night.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


This past weekend my sisters came all the way from Texas to visit me (for the second time!). I can’t tell you how excited I was when they recently told me they were planning a trip up here. I think my parents' trip this summer spurred them to come visit again. Last time they visited was April 2011 and we all know that April is a dreary, rainy month in Portland. I was hoping that they would catch the tail end of our great summer, but this past weekend ended up being the rainiest weekend in September ever. It wasn’t just drizzle and mist, it was monsoon downpour! Ugh, but we still had a good time.
I picked them up from the airport around noon on Friday. We headed to NW Portland for soup at Elephant’s Deli and then did a little shopping on NW 23rd Ave. After checking into our hotel downtown, we met up with Robby for dinner at Ox, voted best restaurant in Portland this year. It was amazing! Such a delicious dinner and pretty great company. We went to a spot around the corner from the restaurant for a drink after dinner and unexpectedly ran into a big group of my friends who were having a Great Gatsby party at that same spot. What are the odds! It was fun getting to introduce my sisters to those friends.
Saturday morning we went down to the Portland Farmers Market, but the weather continued to be wet. We walked around for a bit, got some breakfast burritos and coffee then headed out. Saturday afternoon we met up with Robby and Valerie at the Allison Inn out in Newberg for a day of wine tasting. Valerie, the queen of wine tasting, had scheduled several tasting appointments for us and even drove us around to each place. We started at Adelsheim Vineyards, stopped into Briar Rose Creamery to taste amazing goats cheeses, moved to Vista Hills where we were able to sip wine while sitting and feasting on our spread of Trader Joe’s snacks, then we ended at Argyle where we tasted bubbly bruts. The day was amazing – I think we can all agree that going wine tasting was the best part of the weekend. We headed back to Portland for a sushi dinner at Yama, then back to the hotel after a full day.
taking cover at the farmer's market to eat breakfast

Sunday morning, we had a nice brunch over at my house with some of my favorite people: Fr Ganz, Steve and Thanne, Madison, Drew and my roommate Laura. Fr Ganz led us in a special Sunday service. I know this was not the most normal or comfortable thing for my sisters, but I am so grateful that they were able to see a glimpse of my life here in Portland and the community I’m surrounded by. We had planned to drive the Fruit Loop that afternoon, but the weather was so crummy that we decided to bum around Portland instead. We ended up in the cozy lobby of The Heathman Hotel where we were able to sit by the fire. Robby joined and we headed to The Matador for happy hour nachos before getting some delicious ice cream at Salt and Straw. Emily and Sarah were definitely exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel for an early night.
I dropped them off at the airport early on Monday morning and headed to the office and my “real life.” Emily and Sarah: thanks so much for buying plane tickets, leaving your husbands and kids, and traveling thousands of miles to visit me in Portland! Y’all have to come back sometime in the summer when you can experience sunny, beautiful Portland (it isn’t always rainy here – I swear!).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goat Rocks Wilderness

This past weekend we celebrated my birthday with one of my favorite new birthday traditions: a backpacking trip with friends.  This was the 4th year that I've gone on a long camping trip over Labor Day weekend for a "birthday celebration" - it's really just a good excuse to get some friends together to do something that I love to do!  Most people invite their friends to a nice dinner downtown or maybe a cookout at their house, but I ask my friends to give up a holiday weekend, drive several hours to the wilderness, strap on a heavy pack and hike to a camping spot where there is no running water, electricity, cell phone service or bathrooms.  And what do you know: every year, some of my friends actually do it!

My best friend, Megan, is the brains behind the birthday backpacking weekend.  She has planned the whole thing for the last three years.  It is her gift to me, and it is the best gift she could ever give me.  She plans every detail including who's bringing what gear, what each meal will be, where we're going and how to get there, and there is always a surprise (and quite creative!) birthday dessert that she carries into the wilderness with us.

This year we went to Goat Rocks Wilderness.  The group included Megan, Jason, Robby, Valerie and myself (and Drew in spirit bc he was unable to make it at the last minute).  I had never heard of Goat Rocks, but a couple of Megan and my coworkers camped there this summer and couldn't say enough about it.  It's in central Washington about 3 hrs away from Portland right in between Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount St Helens (talk about amazing views!).  This place is incredible!  I highly recommend it.

We arrived at the Snowgrass Flats Trailhead a little before noon on Saturday and hiked about 4 miles (which took about 4 hours since it was uphill) until we found an amazing camping spot in a field next to a creek.  We set up camp in this perfect location and as we were walking over to the creek to filter some fresh water, we were amazed at the view of Mount Adams.  Yep, this weekend was going to be epic.  Saturday evening we roasted sausages over a campfire and made couscous with vegetables for a delicious dinner (the fact is that everything tastes extra delicious when you're in the wilderness eating by the campfire).  After chatting over smores and gazing at the stars, we crashed in our sleeping bags.

hiking in
the only negative part of this trip: there were tons of flies on the lower portion of the trail
setting up camp and getting a fire started
our view from our camping spot
We made coffee and oatmeal on Sunday morning, before heading out for a long day hike.  We hiked along the Berry Patch Trail which lead us through fields of wildflowers, with amazing view of Mount Adams along the way, to Goat Lake.  I desperately wanted to take a dip in the lake, but my conscience (and more loudly my hiking buddies), told me that was a bad idea since the water was snow melt and quite frigid.  We enjoyed a nice lunch (best peanut butter, honey and granola wraps ever!) before continuing on our way to Hawkeye Point, our final destination.  It was quite a steep hike up to the point with some rock scrambling towards the top, but the view from the top were definitely worth it.  It was a clear day and we were able to see all three mountains.  Unbelievable!
hiking through a meadow of wildflowers
group shot to capture the amazing view of Adams we had the whole day
Goat Lake - yes, that is snow and ice
the group on the right is actually a hiking group from my church that happened to be at Goat Rocks this weekend, too! it was fun running into them.
Jason and Megan making the final push to the top
Megan and I enjoying the view from Hawkeye Point
(Mount Adams in the background)
the whole group at the top of Hawkeye Point (Mount Rainier in the background)
from left to right: Hudsey, Blade, Trillium, Chaco, Firefox
panoramic view from Hawkeye Point - yes, this is real
Robby hiking back down

We made it back to our campsite a bit exhausted after the 9-mile hike.  We boiled some water on the camping stove and made some delicious tortilla soup (best soup ever!) and then Megan surprised me with a delicious peach cobbler cooked in the peach can right over the stove - complete with candles for me to blow out.  We stayed up a bit late talking and laughing and just enjoying being outdoors under a sky full of bright stars - even shooting stars!
We took it easy on Monday morning: eating another delicious oatmeal breakfast, finishing off the smores so that we didn't have to carry them out with us, and packing up our gear.  We loaded our packs back onto our sore shoulders and hiked right back out of the wilderness (downhill this time).  Immediately after stepping off the trail and back into the parking lot where our car and civilization awaited us, we were ready for the comforts of our normal lives: "I need a shower, stat!", "where's the nearest Starbucks?", "don't they have valet service out here?"

We were oddly excited to use a real bathroom, even if it was at the TacoTime in Longview, and get a bite to eat (best burrito ever!).  This weekend was such an incredible weekend.  I would even go so far as to say it was epic!  Thanks to my great friends for joining me for a long weekend in the wilderness.  I can't think of anywhere better that we could have been!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hood to Coast 2013

This past weekend I participated for my 5th year in the Mother of All Relays: Hood to Coast.  I just love this weekend of running and I look forward to it every year.  Sadly, the team that we've had for the past two years was not accepted again this year (I was depressed for several weeks when I received that rejection letter last fall), but thankfully I was able to join my friend Scott's team.
A couple of months ago I decided to sign myself up for Leg 9 (the second hardest leg in the race) because I figured I would probably be in the best running shape of my life this year.  Well, it turns out that getting back into training mode after my marathon in April was more difficult than I expected and I wasn't quite up for such a difficult HTC leg.  So I handed Leg 9 off to Drew, who joined the team a bit last minute.  Thanks, Drew!  I took Leg 8 (the second easiest leg in the race) and felt pretty good about the low mileage I had to run in the relay.
My first leg was an easy 4.55 miles east of Portland through Sandy, OR on Friday afternoon.  I was able to keep a nice 8 min/mile pace - I think I was just excited that the race weekend was finally underway!  I ran my second leg a little after 1:00am and it was rated "very hard".  It was 5.75 miles uphill on a gravel road.  So not only were my calves working extra hard because I was running on my toes uphill, but my quads were quite tight due to lack of traction on the gravel road.  I have no idea what my pace was on that leg (I think I was a bit too delirious to keep track of time at that hour), but I'm sure it was a bit slower than the first leg.  As soon as I got back into the van and changed into clean clothes, I passed out and actually slept for a good 4.5 hours.  I ran my final leg around 9am on Saturday.  It was a medium-difficulty 4.09 miles in the rolling hills of the Oregon Coastal range and I was able to keep right under an 8.5 min/mile pace to finish up.  Overall, I felt pretty good about my legs and wasn't even too sore at the end!
I was in Van 2 which somehow ended up being me and 5 dudes.  I knew three of the guys (one of them being Drew, one who was a former coworker, and the other is a former coworker's husband) and I got to know the other two pretty well by the end of our 30 hours in a van together.  My coworker Bill let us borrow his awesome 1989 StarCraft van that had a queen-size bed in the back (hence the good sleep I got on Friday night).  There's not much privacy when you're stuck in a van with five other people for two days - any modesty you started out with quickly goes out the window.  Going into the weekend, I figured there would be lots of potty humor and talk about sports in a van with a bunch of dudes.  I was right.
But it was an amazingly fun weekend as always and everyone on the team ran well and had a great time.  Fingers crossed for being accepted for a team again next year!
Van 2: Scott, Drew, Mary, Scotty, Charlie, Ryan

handoff to Drew after my first run

Drew staying hydrated and loving the port-a-potties

Scotty/Scott handoff

final leg - ready to be done!

sweet bed in the back of the van

there were several Texas teams participating in the relay
apparently our van messes with Texas